SAF commandos to get highest honor
Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - January 23, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The highest award for the uniformed service will be conferred posthumously on two of the 44 police commandos killed in Mamasapano, as the Philippine National Police (PNP) commemorates the first anniversary of the tragedy tomorrow.

President Aquino leads tomorrow’s commemoration, which coincides with the 25th Foundation Day of the PNP.

The tragedy has set back the government’s peace initiative with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose fighters were responsible for the deaths of the commandos who were on a mission to arrest high-value terrorists.

In an interview over radio dzRB, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III confirmed the President’s authorized the grant of the awards.

To receive the Medalya ng Kagitingan or Medal of Valor tomorrow are Special Action Force members Sr. Insp. Gednat Tabdi and Police Officer 2 Romeo Cempron. President Aquino has approved the awarding of the Medal of Valor to Tabdi and Cempron in recognition of their extraordinary courage in battling guerrillas belonging to the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Earlier, the National Police Commission awarded Tabdi’s and Cempron’s 42 comrades the PNP Distinguished Conduct Medal or Medalya ng Kabayanihan. Also awarded the Medalya ng Kabayanihan was Supt. Raymund Train, who survived what many have considered a massacre.

Train was team leader of Oplan Exodus, the main objective of which was to serve warrants of arrest on Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Filipino terrorist Basit Usman.

The commandos had just killed Marwan in a remote barangay in Mamasapano, Maguindanao when they ran into hundreds of MILF guerillas.

The policemen battled the guerrillas for hours and waited for reinforcements that never came.

Critics of the administration believe the government deliberately ignored the commandos’ plea for reinforcement for fear of antagonizing the MILF, with which the administration is working out a peace deal.

The carnage prompted lawmakers to hold off discussions on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The Senate will reopen the investigation into the Mamasapano incident on Jan. 27.

Then PNP chief Alan Purisima – under suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman for corruption charges – was found to have planned the operation and directed its execution.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said the reopening of the probe was prompted by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s claim that new evidence points to President Aquino’s direct involvement in the operation.

Napolcom resolution

Interior and Local Government Secretary and concurrent Napolcom chairman Mel Senen Sarmiento bared the issuance of resolutions recommending the highest honor for the two SAF commandos.

Napolcom vice chairman and executive officer Eduardo Escueta said Tabdi was the team leader of Team 1 of the Main Effort 1, 84th Special Action Company when Oplan Exodus was carried out.

Tabdi also served as the navigator and point man of his team.

“Although wounded, weakened and dehydrated in the daylong firefights, he prepared and led his troops for the showdown against the overwhelming odds that marked his gallant stand as a SAF trooper,” the Napolcom resolution read.

“His leadership, courage and gallantry had inspired the troopers to hack it out with the overwhelming enemy to accomplish the mission,” it added.

Cempron, as lead gunner of the Main Effort 2, 55th Special Action Company, helped secure the teams tasked to arrest Marwan and Usman.

“While his team of 36 SAF commandos was being bombarded by the enemies in the cornfields of Sitio Tukanalipao, and without proper cover, Cempron bravely fought and made his last stand until he ran out of ammunition,” Napolcom said in its resolution.

Escueta said Cempron fought and stood his ground in the battlefield for five hours knowing fully well that the SAF was already outnumbered and with only a few team members surviving.

“At the last moment of his life, when escape could be possible, PO2 Cempron decided, instead, to help facilitate the escape of PO2 Christopher Lalan by using his body as a diversion for snipers so that the latter can run away from the enemies,” he added.

The Napolcom, Escueta said, acknowledges the need to honor the outstanding accomplishments of the SAF troopers.

“These heroes will always be remembered and their sacrifice will never be forgotten. The SAF 44 did not die in vain, but showed the highest form of sacrifice for our safety and for our country,” Escueta said.

He explained the qualified children of awardees of the Medal of Valor and the PNP Distinguished Conduct Medal shall be granted educational scholarship under the Reward Education Assistance Program (REAP) of the PNP. – Aurea Calica



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